In the beginning of the meeting, after Chairperson Mark Mullen said that two individuals who had been signed up to speak during the public comment, Dr. Inga Kish and Elisabeth Stoffel, both doctors associated with Atrium Health, were to be removed from the list, Heavner asked that all board members be kept abreast of communications and discussions with other board members.
“I know Atrium is a very strong supporter of Lincoln County Schools so I did receive phone calls that I think I could have been able to answer better if I would have known the reason they couldn’t speak,” she said.
Prior to the meeting, Times-News reached out to Mullen to ask why they weren’t allowed to speak. He said that it was board policy that only those who live in Lincoln County could speak. Both doctors are employed in Lincoln County. The policy specifically says that “citizens” are invited to speak – it doesn’t limit it to citizens of Lincoln County.
As was the case back when the school board was considering mandatory vs. optional on Aug. 10, the majority of those signed up to speak, asked that the board keep masks mandatory. One individual spoke in favor of optional.
The board heard a presentation from Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, who serves North Carolina as the State Health Director and the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services and a brief presentation from Lincoln County Public Health Director Davin Madden.
Tilson spoke of using a layered approach of protection of which masks are a part of and that there was a higher percentage of children getting sick and some dying, and while they may not get seriously ill, they were efficient spreaders and could pass COVID-19 to teachers, staff, and family members. She also said that the Delta variant was more transmissible. She recommended that the board follow the CDC guidelines and require that students, teachers, and staff wear face coverings while inside, especially now that the predominant strain is the more contagious Delta variant.
Madden provided Lincoln County metrics which showed an increase in positive COVID cases. Lincoln County’s positivity rate is 14.1%. Average daily hospitalizations in Lincoln County are 39.
Wulfhorst brought to the attention of the board two doctors who have students in the school system who were in the meeting who didn’t stand up quickly enough to get in on the public comment. While the board has the discretion to listen to these individuals, the motion when presented, failed.
In addition to making masks optional effective Sept. 29, unless a student or staff member is positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation, is symptomatic, or has been given a written quarantine order from the local health department, they should be on school campus. Masks will continue to be required on school buses.
This will be reviewed again at the next Board of Education meeting which is Oct. 12.
The Lincoln Charter School Board voted on Monday six to two to keep masks mandatory for an additional 30 days.